12.07.2012 - 15.07.2012
After a good night’s sleep (volcano climbing is tiring!) we had a slow start before making our way to Granada, Nicaragua’s oldest colonial City – a relatively easy journey (other than Sarah’s dash back to the hostel from the bus terminal to look for her lost mobile phone which later appeared to be in the rucksack all along...silly Sarah) of only 1 chicken bus and 1 shuttle. First impressions of Granada were good – it’s a very attractive looking city with a lovely Parque Central and very impressive cathedral, however much more touristy than most other cities we have visited, with a big American influence. We set about hostel hunting; first stop was what appeared to look like a prison cell on the edge of a scrap yard (not the description used by our Guide Book). Joe had to be dragged from here as he was very attached to the minimal price, but Sarah decided an extra pound or two would be well spent in this situation. A stone’s throw away, across the road, there was another hostel, lovely, very pink, nice kitchen and less prison like rooms – so we were sold! We spent a little while exploring the city before sampling our first Nicaraguan Rum in the form of a Mojito and a Caipirinha – excellent!
Next day we made an early start to visit Masaya; a town about 40 minutes journey from Granada, famous for its markets. After getting hopelessly lost around aisles and aisles of tomatoes, bananas, pigs and fish we gave up and took a taxi to Malecon which is on the edge of the town and the edge of Laguna de Masaya for some pretty impressive views of Volcan Santiago.
We then set about a spot of hammock shopping in the hammock workshops. We obviously have nowhere to hang a hammock in England and have no spare luggage space at present which means extra bags so getting on and off chicken buses will be even more exciting than it already is – but, we were exceptionally pleased with our purchase. We spent a little time wandering the Mercado de Artesanias before trying a couple of local dishes for lunch – not the best local delicacies we have sampled (Sarah essentially has a bowl of big pork scratching whilst Joe has something that looked similar to a cows tail).
Back in Granada we visited the very grand and huge cathedral before having a little wander around the square. Granada is a very pretty city with lots of colourful buildings, looking particularly pretty at night. The centre is unfortunately a little lifeless as a lot of locals have been pushed further out due to rising property prices due to the influx of foreigners moving into the area which is sad.
Another day of travel took us from Granada across to Isla de Ometepe – an island formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lago de Nicaragua. The lake is huge, so big it has little waves! After an hours choppy boat ride we arrived in Myogalpa, the larger town on the Island.
Despite the constant bombardment of sales pitches we turned down an offer of a luxury jeep ride to our hostel opting for a much cheaper chicken bus. Just prior to the bus leaving the whole population of Ometepe appeared to get on – it was without a doubt the busiest, hottest chicken bus we have been on and definitely confirms that chicken buses can never be full – there will always be space for Mrs Gonzalez and her 11 children, 14 bags of flour and wooden table! Feeling pleased with surviving another epic chicken bus journey we arrived in Santa Domingo, a small town of the lake side and found ourselves a lovely hostel equipped with hammocks-a-plenty to take in the lake and volcano views.
After much deliberation of whether to climb a volcano or not we decided to opt for not and hire a quad bike to explore the island on our own. After a morning dip and breakfast on the lake we collected our bike. Joe underwent a thorough training session in full Spanish on how to work said bike – a manual, rather powerful, quad bike. After numerous stalls and a rather jumpy start we were on our way; not totally in control, trying to avoid cows, horses, pigs, dogs and humans whilst at the same time trying to negotiate rather large rocks and boulders which appeared to be in our “road”. We both generally got the hang of driving until we needed to stop – this resulted in a definite stall and at least three attempts to get going again!
During our full day of driving we were able to visit San Ramos waterfall and Ojo de Agua. The waterfall is half way up Volcan Maderas and after negotiating our way 2 km up the track we then had to walk the last kilometre through impressive jungle.
The waterfall is 35metres high and is very picturesque, although lands in a somewhat small slightly muddy looking pool. As we arrived the heavens opened and we had torrential rain so were soaked whether we were standing under the waterfall or not! On route back down we came across a huge crab which tried to pincer Joe’s leg, a Howler monkey and the world’s biggest beetle.
After another very bumpy two hour drive we took ourselves to a natural swimming hole which was very lovely although a little nippy but equipped with a rope swing which was a lot of fun.
We spent a little while relaxing and sipping coconut milk before getting back to Santa Domingo and rather happily handed back the quad bike. Very bumpy roads and a very heavy quad bike make for quite a workout and we both feel a little like we have been beaten up!